If one were to make an educated guess, sustainability could easily rank as a strong contender for the 2021 Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year title. In a world scrambling to make sense of the health pandemic and adapt to life AC (after coronavirus), sustainability is high on the agenda for individuals and businesses and organisations, alike.

The KPMG Survey of Sustainability Reporting 2020 released in December, demonstrates that sustainability can no longer be relegated to the realm of corporate social responsibility, as a separate entity within organisations or even a nice-to-have for publicity and goodwill.

Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) or sustainability demands the transition to a green and more sustainable economy and the results of the latest KPMG survey, first published in 1993, indicate an encouraging trend towards increasing mandatory disclosures of certain types of information, such as climate-related risks and resilience strategies for businesses around the globe.

Sustainability reporting

South Africa ranks as one of the top 10 countries or jurisdictions where companies include sustainability information in annual reports, but Africa lags. According to KPMG’s 2020 survey data, there are only three countries where integrated reporting is currently a majority practice: South Africa, Japan and Sri Lanka.

This is a positive development, however, in a global economy where there is an expectation for increased transparency and a need to understand both financial and non-financial information to unlock long-term value creation, businesses already reeling from the impacts of COVID-19 will remain disadvantaged if they do not respect and embrace the currency of sustainability.

Investors, lenders, insurers, customers, and indeed, all stakeholders are increasingly placing higher value on ESG to determine which brands, companies and businesses to support. With the power of online and social media, all it takes is an emotive hashtag and a series of retweets for individuals and businesses to feel the vicious sting of stakeholder muscle in the 21st century.

According to the KPMG report, the number of top 100 (large and mid-cap) international companies investing in independent third-party assurance of their sustainability information has exceeded 50% for the first time since the survey began. It is no longer sufficient for companies to report on their sustainability; it is now standard practice to have their data and information verified.

Leaving a living legacy

TIA360’s business ethos is embedded in the STACK model which places sustainability as its guiding pillar to revive the travel and tourism sector on the continent. As a platform that unites businesses in the industry with potential investors and financial partners, proving sustainability becomes a key determinant in business success.

ESG encompasses a wide range of factors for consideration including human capital development, environment protection, corruption-free society, energy and water efficiency, green reforms, and overall sustainability of resources.

What is clear is that sustainability is no longer a buzz word; businesses looking to leave a legacy of empowerment must transform the way they approach nature, people, and humanity to unlock the collective potential of our continent.

First published on 23 May 2021 here.